Sep 18–21, 2024

2023 Game Devs of Color Expo

Our fourth year online featured an expanded lineup of games and speakers!

Game Devs of Color Expo Steam Sale

Take a look at discounts, demos, and more from games featured during the event.

Browse the games

2023 speaker list

Why Games Need More Unlikeable Protagonists
Louisa Atto (She/Her)
Games need more unlikeable protagonists! When it comes to characterization, many writers often fall into the likeability trap, making their characters "good" and "likeable"---and little else. Using examples from today's popular indie and AAA games, this talk will explore why likeability does not make for an interesting protagonist and, in some cases, may hinder the player experience and overall feel of the game.

Make Your Players Cry: Grief, Loss and Identity in Games
Emily Pitcher (She/Her)
Games are often used as an escape, so why do so many people gravitate towards games depicting real life struggles? Emily Pitcher's talk shines light on why we make emotional games and how to write about serious topics (grief, loss, mental health, cultural issues, etc.) with nuance and honesty. Writing about sensitive issues can be uncomfortable, so Pitcher gives tips on ensuring your game takes these hardships seriously while uplifting your players. She discusses researching, writing without cliches, and adding occasional levity in her game A Taste of the Past.

Manga & Comics are Narrative Design: Crafting Story Scene By Scene
Adanna N. (She/Her)
Narrative Design is one of the most perplexing aspects of game development. What exactly is narrative design, and how is it different from games writing? What are the best ways to implement it? In this talk, I will discuss utilizing manga and comics to demonstrate narrative design. Because manga and comics are multimedia art forms (a combination of images and text in varying degrees to tell a story) similar to games, it makes an excellent example to display how gameplay and story can combine.

Using Twine To Tell A Visual Story Without Pictures
Dedie Kanda (He/They)
In this talk, Dedie will walk the audience through a series of narrative works that uses visual composition techniques in its design to complement both the writing and the overall story itself. Each of the visual techniques used will be dissected, explaining the creative intentions behind each one, as well as how Twine made it all possible.

Creating Compelling Characters Through the Lens of Belle Automata
Jessinia Saunders (She/Her)
Jessinia, also known as owl. and head of the indie dev studio Jellyfish Parade, shares her knowledge on the concepts of solid world building and compelling character creation for visual novels and other narrative and interactive fiction games. She primarily uses her visual novel Belle Automata as well as other completed games such as War of Roses and PAIRS to illustrate how this can be done in a natural but structured way.

Queer Advocacy in Indie Game Design: A Solace State Retrospective
Tanya Kan (She/Her),
Seamus Ly (He/Him)
Solace State developers Tanya Kan and Seamus Ly reveal the design and narrative decisions to create a cohesive game world with 31 fully illustrated characters in a sci-fi city fractured by unrest. In our game, activism is a relay marathon of many people, not a sprint of a single hero. The talk emphasizes how multiple elements of the game, including our unique camera design, choices, and 2D characters embedded into 3D, builds on the specificity of bringing queer and marginalized voices to the forefront while retaining the specificities of their environment and their relationships.

ADHD while Black: Braving your own Brain
Lauren Brown (She/Her)
Black and Latino children are 48-50% less likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis in our youth than white children, which left many of us to live our whole lives wondering why we were so different, why we were late, why we forgot things. Over the pandemic, our usual outlets vanished, and we came face-to-face with our neurodivergent brains as ADHD truly came out to PLAY. This talk by ADHD Art Director Lauren Brown is about how to navigate your schedule, workload, your joy and peace, and how to truly own the brain you HAVE with therapist-approved mindset shifts and methodologies.

What’s New?? The Power of Creativity for People and Games
Dave Tamayo (He/Him)
“Creativity” is a word used a lot in our industry, but what is it exactly? Is it something you’re born with? Does it come from sitting around until an apple falls on your head? Does creativity even matter at your job in games? (Hint: YES). In this talk, Dave Tamayo will do a deep dive into creativity in two parts. First, defining what creativity is and dispelling common myths around it. The second part digs into its practical applications. It covers different approaches to creativity, techniques to improve it, and the many ways can enhance and advance your work and career.

Your Gaming Expertise IS Your Key to Business Success
Kariz Matic (She/They)
Running a business is about having systems of operation, keeping score of important metrics, and running campaigns or projects to reach the next level of work. Does this sound familiar? It's because whether you're working through operations, product development or marketing, you already have the creativity, organizational skills and problem-solving aptitude to be successful in every aspect of your business. In this talk, we will apply a common-sense approach that will give you a scalable framework for how to successfully navigate the conundrums of business.

Vulnerability in Game Production
Andrea Luc (She/Her)
What does it look like to create production processes that are focused on compassion and vulnerability? And why is this important to delivering games your team is proud of? In this talk, Andrea Luc will explore ways in which vulnerability becomes an inevitable facet of game production. Drawing from her own experiences as a producer in a mix of indie and non-profit studios, she’ll explore the ways in which allowing development teams the space to be vulnerable and authentic builds resilience, trust, and better products.

Game Monetization: how we got here and where to go
Johnny Liu (He/Him)
This talk discusses abstract concepts around revenue models of games. How do game developers sell enough of our game to make a living and then make the next one, how the players are treated under each of these models, and how studios build a better relationship with our players.

Getting unstuck - 5 Practical tips for a smoother development
César Abraham Domínguez Garza (He/Him)
“What do I do from here?”, “I’ve been stuck on this forever!”, “It feels like I'm never going to finish it!”.

If you've felt like that when working on your game… first of all: we all have. BUT people have gotten out of dark places like those and found ways to get the truck out of the mud and moving again. In this talk I want to give tips and tricks with examples that have helped me overcome the overwhelming choices of some of these problems, so you can focus in order to finish your game.

The pros and cons of being co-developers for hire
Ken Barnes (They/Them, She/Her, He/Him),
Monica Fan (She/They)
Co-dev studios don’t make the headlines as often as original IP studios do. But larger studios with volatile retention between projects (made even more so by the pandemic) often rely heavily on co-dev teams to build their AAA projects. Co-dev services can also provide additional job security in that they commonly have a slate of work that no one project’s success or failure can destabilize. Many developers will work at a co-dev studio during their careers. Monica Fan and Ken Barnes talk through some of the advantages and disadvantages of work-for-hire studios, with a specific focus on devs from marginalized groups.

How Did You Ship That??? A Postmortem: The Cartomancy Anthology
Cesca (She/They),
Samantha Ortiz (She/Her)
It's a miracle that any game ships, but things get even trickier when you're creating a game anthology! The Cartomancy Anthology is a tremendous collection of 22 games, each based on a Major Arcana card and created by a different development team. 80+ developers participated from around the globe, making this project one of the largest published game collaborations to exist. In this talk, members of the Cartomancy organizing team share what was going on behind the scenes and reflect on process, logistics, and communication strategies. Spoilers: It's a lot!

Puzzle Design from lived experiences
Mostafa Haque (He/They)
Going over leveraging real life experiences to turn them into puzzles.

Balancing Creativity and Usability: UX Design Lessons from Wavelength
Kristen Leach (She/Her)
Learn to balance creativity and usability when designing your next game. Kristen Leach, a game and product designer, will share user experience best practices by stepping through design challenges she faced while creating the Wavelength app. She'll walk through various examples, from designing multiplayer lobbies to tackling more complex issues like in-app purchases and monetization. You'll gain practical tips to improve your game interfaces and learn how to choose whether to design novel interactions or go with established industry standards.

Presence in Practice: Affinity vs. Contrast in Video Game UX
Ahmed Salama (He/Him)
In 3D games we see many types of user interfaces. In this session you will learn what they are, and how to best select which type of interface should be presented to our players depending on the player's level of 'presence' while playing your game. You will see a case study covering a fictional abstract AAA open world game realised for this talk and how the UI is structured from the ground up while best respecting immersion in our game world and giving the game's core systems room to breathe. You will also learn how to apply this process to your current game project.

How to Set Up Game Key Art and Logos for Success
Rachel Runa (She/Her)
There's no doubt that a game’s key art and logos are core components to its marketing. From box art to social media graphics, key art and logo files need to be adapted to fit a multitude of dimensions and layouts. How should these assets and their subsequent creation into marketing collateral be approached?

In this talk, Rachel Runa breaks down how to set up game key art and logos for success, sharing best practices, recommended specs, techniques and tools, and the do’s and don’ts on adaptation into marketing assets such as Steam capsules.

2d Animation for Games the Notion Games Way!
Andrew Augustin (He/Him),
Edward Dennis (He/Him)
Take a comprehensive look into how Andrew Augustin (Assistant Professor of Practice at the University of Texas and founder of Notion Games) dreams up characters, environments, enemies, and more for his games. From concept sketches to final render and implementation, you'll get a first look at how to create art for 2d games... the Notion Games way!

Finding Your Game's Art Style on the Cheap
Josie Devora (He/Him)
"Finding Your Game's Art Style on the Cheap" specifically targets the pain point of pre-production, and provides a structure designed to help you get to your game's unique style sooner. This talk defines what makes art unique, with specific attention given to character concepting and background work. Tools highlighted include inspiration boards, Let's Plays, Milanote, and AI prompts using your own sketches as a base to build from.

Growing Indigenous Worlds (in Games)
Meagan Byrne (Any Pronouns),
Sadekaronhes Esquivel (Any Pronouns)
Creative Leads Meagan and Sadekaronhes from the Indigenous indie studio Achimostawinan Games talk about the process, history, worldview and resistance that goes in to building the worlds of Hill Agency.

In this talk we will share how we move from macro to micro in our design process and how we empower our Indigenous team members to add their own touches. We will bring our along audience on a short journey into our Indigenous worldview and how it informs our world building from the ground up and out.

Virtual Songlines: Exploring Indigenous Culture Through Virtual Reality
Brett Leavy (He/Him)
In this talk, attendees will explore Virtual Songlines, a VR project that shares Indigenous culture. Bilbie XR Labs will discuss the benefits and challenges of using VR for cultural preservation, project development, and cultural significance. Attendees can experience the project through a live demo, learn about the impact of technology on culture, and appreciate VR's potential in cultural knowledge sharing. This talk is ideal for those interested in Indigenous culture and technology's role in preserving and sharing it.

Surprises on my journey from hobbyist to full-time Indie
Sam Scaife (He/Him)
Join Sam as he talks about the roller coaster experience of going from a dreaming hobbyist to a full time indie developer. We’ll focus on around 5 surprises Sam found on this journey. If you’re looking to start your own path creating games you’ll learn that the knowledge and skills you already have are relevant and useful. You may also learn to challenge some of the assumptions you hold about the industry and to reach out for support as you grow.

A lonely introvert's guide to authentic networking
Neha Patel (She/Her)
This talk is to help our fellow lonely introverts in having a more positive and realistic experience in networking. Whether you are a student or an intermediate dev, it is undeniable that the games industry requires us to have a certain visibility and presence. This can be mentally taxing and physically exhausting. As someone who started in the industry solo and is an introvert, this talk is to help fellow kindreds make the most out of their networking experience in an authentic and sustainable way.

Transformative Roles and Culture in Queer Fantasy and Sci-Fi Games
Tanya Kan (She/Her),
Nana Moon (She/Her),
Sherveen Uduwana (He/Him)
How do characters change over the course of a game narrative? In this unpanel, lead developers from fantasy and sci-fi games of different game genres share how they build dynamic characters with depth and agency from marginalized perspectives. How do we consider what are authentic representations within our fantastical and sci-fi worldbuilding? How have we changed as developers even as our characters meet their challenges? Join us as we take a closer look at transformations with our genres, our characters, and ourselves.

F.A.R.T - a 4-step guide to break into the industry for self-taught sound designers
Jamie Lee (She/Her)
Self-taught sound designers who are wanting to break into the industry often feel overwhelmed and lost. It is a huge struggle to find time and resources to acquire new skills while working non-game-related jobs to survive. This talk specifically tackles the unique struggles self-taught sound designers go through, and offers tips on how to set yourself up for both short term & long term success in 4 simple steps. It navigates through the basic understanding of sound design, assessing your situation to set up realistic goals, networking, soft skills, mental health, and so on.

Made out of Meat: Human Corporeality in Games
Tyriq Plummer (He/Him)
In this talk, Tyriq Plummer explores both the resilience and fragility of the human body, examining how our physical shortcomings can be applied to games in order to create more interesting situations. Health in games is often reduced to a simple binary of 'alive' or 'dead' with very little between, but there is so much more to human vitality than that. Tyriq looks at games that have tried more unique ways of representing the continuum of life, as well as real-life instances of humans surviving in extreme circumstances to see what can be learned and applied to games.

How To Build Community in a Crumbling Social Media Landscape
Alexia Mohabir (They/She)
With the rapid decline of Twitter, the increased centralization of the internet and the continuous rise of profit-driven algorithms, it can feel next to impossible to meaningfully connect with others and build a community around shared goals or projects. This talk will tackle not just alternatives, but practical tips you can use to adapt regardless of platform. We will look at examples of creators who are finding success online and data from various social media platforms that will help you rethink your approach to social media and help guide you to connect and create without losing your head.

2023 game dev grant winners

We awarded a total of $30,000 to two game creators of color.

The Game Devs of Color Expo Grant

Jessinia Saunders

Daniel Lowe

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